Series: The Elemental Trilogy #2
Published by Balzer + Bray on September 16th, 2014
Genres: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy, Historical Fiction
After spending the summer away from each other, Titus and Iolanthe (still disguised as Archer Fairfax) are eager to return to Eton College to resume their training to fight the Bane. Although no longer bound to Titus by a blood oath, Iolanthe is more committed than ever to fulfilling her destiny—especially with the agents of Atlantis quickly closing in.
Soon after arriving at school, though, Titus makes a shocking discovery, one that makes him question everything he previously believed about their mission. Faced with this devastating realization, Iolanthe is forced to come to terms with her new role, while Titus must choose between following his mother's prophecies—and forging a divergent path to an unknowable future.
Sequels are often compared to their predecessor(s), especially when with regard to deciding on a fitting rating, but I can tell you that this did me absolutely no good at all. Because The Perilous Sea seems so fundamentally different from The Burning Sky in many aspects.
The Perilous Sea was an exciting, gripping read and a worthy sequel for this series. The book excelled in taking the tension, the danger, and the action to the next level. Some of the plot twists in this book had me practically gaping. But I also felt like the overall drama factor was turned up a notch as well, and I don’t know how I feel about that, especially where that puts me with the rating.
The sequel implemented a different concept for the plot. Whereas The Burning Sky had followed a typical linear timeline, The Perilous Sea jumped between two timelines. At first, I thought I was going to be annoyed by this, because I really like linear and logical unfoldings of a story, but Thomas really made it work. The action-packed storyline in the Sahara desert balanced out the slow-going retrospective storyline in England, 1883. From the very first page, it was clear that due to some event in the past, the two main characters’ memories had been wiped blank. Now, if you’re not a fan of the memory loss plot device, you’ll probably have a massive eye-roll coming on. Because yes, memory loss is an undoubtedly convenient device, especially when the effect is lifted in an opportune moment. I wonder whether a reason the author decided to go with a plot driven by memory loss was the romance. I occurred to me that, after the sizzling slow burn between Iolanthe and Titus VII in The Burning sky, the author was concerned that people would get bored with a now established romance, so she quickly wove in blank memories to make things interesting. I’m not going to lie: It worked to some extent because it kept me hooked to the romantic subplot as well. So, we then have a current, action-packed storyline in which their romance sparks anew and a retrospective, slow-going storyline in which there’s trouble in paradise.
“You might be the scariest girl I have ever met,” he told her.
“Let’s not be dramatic,” she said dryly. “I’m the only girl you can remember ever meeting.”
I really adore both Iolanthe, because she’s a spitfire in spite of her vulnerabilities, and Titus VII, because he’s a fucking dreamboat. Their characterizations are fleshed out, relatable and well-balanced. Both of them experience a lot of turmoil in this book (not unlike the last book which had been an emotional rollercoaster already), and their pain was palpable and well-written. Characters who are strong as individuals usually make me enjoy a romance more. I also like what their romance stands for because what they have is a realistic and overall healthy relationship. Both of them are willing to abandon their romantic relationship for greater goals without being quite able to let go of their love for each other. I do think the author exaggerated a bit with the drama this time and it irked me to some extent. The rift driven between them due to an unexpected revelation seemed a bit forced and artificial. Nonetheless, they are still a couple I root for and I can forgive this small but dramatic lapse.
Apart from the romantic angst and drama, there were a couple of other things that didn’t sit well with me. This book focused on a dramatic chase through the desert and a slow unfolding of an equally interesting, yet more subtle chase in England. However, the book also shed some more light on Iolanthe’s past as she digs mercilessly for clues to her origins. The lack of an emotional response from Iolanthe when the identities of her birth parents are revealed was so anti-climactic and weird. Another aspect I had already remarked upon in my review on The Burning Sky were the similarities to other (urban) fantasy novel. I said the series read like a mash-up of Harry Potter meets Avatar the Last Airbender, and I stand by this statement. Though new magical elements are introduced, the series cannot shake its smell of previously written works and ideas. I cannot help but feel like the author stole the idea for the Bane’s resurrection from Rowling’s Horcruxes. The similarities are there, which is why this series, in spite of its overall enjoyment factor, will never stand out as unique among its kind. This saddens me a great deal because the potential is there.
Overall, The Perilous Sea was an intense, enjoyable sequel with a few bumps along the way. I really think this book could’ve done without some of the plot devices and the drama, but I cannot say it completely backfired, either. If you’re looking for a lightly written, not demanding, but entertaining historical/urban fantasy – with great characters but without having high expectations with regard to orginiality –, then the Elemental trilogy might be your thing.